Pemberley (Lyme Park, Cheshire)

Pemberley (Lyme Park, Cheshire)
Oh, to be in England...

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Bleak House in the Bleak Midwinter

Bleak House BBC cast photo
My birthday present to myself this year was yet another Amazon shopping spree. It was pointed out to me by a few of my readers when I photographed and posted my DVD collection for snooping, that I was missing a couple of critical Dickens/BBC biggies, namely Bleak House and Little Dorrit. Both of these I had seen on television and so somehow never bought. Well, after Downton Abbey, the timing was perfect for another wonderful series to take the place of the schlock on TV this winter.

If you have never seen this adaptation of Dickens' scathing take on the legal profession (as only Dickens can do), you need to buy, borrow, rent or otherwise procure this series, as it is one of the best things the BBC has ever produced. EVER!

Gillian Anderson as Lady Deadlock-"Bored to death!"
Gillian Anderson, having been brought up on two continents, switches effortlessly to a British accent (no Scully here) and is amazing to watch as the "bored to death" Lady Deadlock. Her situation as the wife of an older rather soulless aristocrat makes her an odd object of pity. She is, simply, riveting to watch.

Anna Maxwell Martin as the true heroine, Esther Summerson
Anna Maxwell Martin does a wonderful job of portraying the main character, Esther Summerson, a role which could be bland and boring, but is not at all in Martin's capable hands. Unfortunately, she looks nothing like her supposed mother in this so suspend your disbelief if you will.

Denis Lawson as Red Two (Wedge) in Star Wars-I knew I had seen those eyebrows somewhere!

Denis Lawson a few years later as Mr. John Jarndyce
Denis Lawson does a lovely job with another character that could come off as bland, Mr. John Jarndyce. Apparently, he invented a back story to explain why John Jarndyce is still a bachelor at this age (a crushingly broken heart of course) which helped him bring the character to life.
I had to look up Denis Lawson on IMDb to find out where I had seen him before, and of course it was as one of the X-Wing fighter pilots in the 3 original Star Wars episodes. Apparently, his role as Red Two (Wedge) inspired both of his nephews in their careers. One nephew, Ewan McGregor, became an actor and another nephew, Colin McGregor became a pilot in the RAF!

Philip Davis as Mr. Smallweed "Shake me up Judy"
OMG my husband (the Squire) is still walking around saying "Shake me up Judy" two weeks after watching this! This was one of the most hilarious things I have ever seen on the screen. Philip Davis must have had a blast with this character, and character is definitely the word!

Burn Gorman as the unforgettable Mr. Guppy
Speaking of characters, they could not have cast Mr. Guppy any better than they did with the odd looking Burn Gorman. He has a face that was meant to play a Dickens character. The scene where he proposes to Esther is absolutely priceless. "My Angel!"

Charles Dance as the oily evil Mr. Tulkinghorn
Patrick Kennedy as Richard Carstone and Carey Mulligan as Ada Clare "The Jarndyce Wards"

Nathaniel Parker as Mr. Harold Skimpole "I am like a child..."
Well, I could go on and on but in short, you have to see this. You have missed one of the best period dramas ever if you miss this one. If you only saw it on PBS, it looks much better on DVD. Not as dark and easier to see the action. I felt like I was missing half of this the first time I saw it, but it comes through beautifully in high definition with DVD. The half hour episodes are great too as you can decide how much or how little you want to watch at one sitting.
Warning, it is like potato chips...hard to stop at just one episode!


  1. Thanks for the tip. I just watched "Little Dorrit" a couple of weeks ago and loved it. A perfect blend of humour and irony. Loved Mrs. Plornish and her attempt at Italian. Brilliant.

  2. That's hilarious Olga, as we only have two episodes of Little Dorrit left to watch tonight. I'll be sad when I have no more Dickens to watch for a while.

    I loved when Mrs. Plornish translated Cavalletto's English with an Italian accent into English for Pancks. And when Pancks snorts and waddles off! Classic!

    What shall I watch next???

  3. Have you seen the 2 versions of David Copperfield? There was a TV version and a BBC version. One was from 1999 and the other from 2000. I haven't seen either, but I'm looking for copies of each.

    And, yes, these programs are the perfect antidote to the awful programming on TV.

  4. Hi Olga
    I have only seen the 1999 version with Maggie Smith and Daniel Radcliffe. It was very good as I recall, although it has been a good decade or so now. I looked them both up on IMDb, and the 1999 version is slightly higher rated, but they both look like they would be good. I also remember an old black and white version with WC Fields as a hilarious Mr. Micawber from 1935. Good luck finding Daniel Copperfield!

  5. I am trying to find the title of an old 30's / 40's film. All I can remember from seeing it years ago is that it is set in an old mansion, lots of piano playing which ignites the love between a young woman and the male hero. It is very similar in style to Rebecca apart from the haunting piano playing scenes of classical music, but for the life of me I simply cant remember it. Can anyone offer any suggestions of what it might be?

    1. Could be just about anything I suppose. Perhaps, you will recall something other to help identify that in which you seek. In keeping with these period pieces by Dickens, "The Old Curiousity Shop" is very good as well and provides the proper amount of suspense and drama to make it consistently interesting.

  6. @Anonymous- Sounds like you might be thinking of The Uninvited from 1944. If you look it up on IMDb at you can see if that is the correct film.

    "A composer and his sister discover that the reason they are able to purchase a beautiful gothic seacoast mansion very cheaply is the house's unsavory past."

  7. Thanks Jenny. I didnt think it was a psychological film more of a romance / drama. That film look good though. I thought it might be The Seventh Veil with James Mason and Ann Todd but when I watched it, it didnt show the clips that I recall. I remember lots of wonderful classical piano music playing in a large mansion room and the woman running out of the house and away - but I guess until I see the film I wont know which film it actually is!! Thanks anyway - I think I'll watch the Uninvited all the same - it looks quite a good eerie one.




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